TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Evolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Evolution. Show all posts

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Awaken the Amnesiacs 11: Depart from the Camera Obscura


A natural instance of a camera obscura: an image of the New Royal Palace at Prague Castle projected onto an attic wall by a hole in the tile roofing (2 August 2011). Image Source: Gampe/Wiki.

For this weekend's solstice, the blog journeys into the darkness, the blind spot. Try this experiment. If you are left or liberal, try watching or reading conservative news and alt-media for a week. If you are conservative or libertarian, force yourself to listen to or read liberal-left media for a week.

The holidays are a good time to do this, when many people encounter friends and family they haven't seen in awhile, and have conversations which reveal uncomfortable political differences. Have compassion for your fellow human beings at holiday dinner tables, because we are all equally hammered by divisive and misleading propaganda.

If you follow the 'wrong' politicized narrative for a few days, you will notice that people are being fed the exact same story with which you may be familiar, but the players are changed.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: Latent Feline Infection


This meme dates from 2010. Image Source: Know Your Meme.

Today's post concerns how cats influence human health, based on the article: Influence of latent Toxoplasma infection on human personality, physiology and morphology: pros and cons of the Toxoplasma–human model in studying the manipulation hypothesis. That article concerns the often asymptomatic or latent disease, toxoplasmosis, caused by an intercellular parasite which is passed through cats to humans and is related to human depression, autism, cerebral calcification, sex addiction, and schizophrenia. It is a disease that affects rodents and makes them lose all fear of cats; this has allowed the parasitic protozoan to return to feline systems, where it can complete its life cycle. The parasite also affects the rodent brain's sexual impulses and reward centres.

Toxoplasma gondii parasitic protozoa. Image Source: Ke Hu and John Murray via Business Insider.

Scientists believe that toxoplasmosis infection similarly makes humans attracted to cats. The disease affects an enormous number of people, which may incidentally ensure the survival of the domestic cat, while also safeguarding the protozoan. Wiki:
"Up to half of the world's population are infected by toxoplasmosis but have no symptoms. In the United States about 23% are affected and in some areas of the world this is up to 95%. About 200,000 cases of congenital toxoplasmosis occur a year. Charles Nicolle and Louis Manceaux first described the organism in 1908. In 1941 transmission during pregnancy from a mother to a child was confirmed."
Perhaps those Walking Dead zombie stories are telling you the truth about a reality you suspect, but cannot see. If you think everyone around you is infected by some mysterious bug that makes them crazy, you may not be paranoid. You may be right. From Florence Robert-Gangneux and Marie-Laure Dardé in American Society for Microbiology (2012):
"Low seroprevalences (10 to 30%) have been observed in North America, in South East Asia, in Northern Europe, and in Sahelian countries of Africa. Moderate prevalences (30 to 50%) have been found in countries of Central and Southern Europe, and high prevalences have been found Latin America and in tropical African countries."
Approximate rates of infection by country below are almost all based on tests of pregnant women. Some studies only focus on particular regions, and the numbers change from year to year. Follow the links for years and details; not all countries conduct studies or keep statistics. Note that these statistics tend to show infection passed from mother to child in the womb. They do not include post-natal infection, in which people are infected directly by handling cats or eating raw or rare meat:
  • Argentina: sources for Buenos Aires 45.6%-57.2% infected
  • Australia: 28% infected; 23% found infected in pregnant women from Melbourne
  • Bahrain: 22.3% tested positive, from pregnant women in Manama only
  • Belgium: 48.7% infected
  • Brazil: 66.9% infected; other sources range 55.6%-77.8%, depending on region
  • Canada: unknown; extrapolated estimate 14%-22% infected
  • Chile: 40%-90% of the population, depending on region
  • China: Changchun only, 10.6% infected among pregnant women
  • Colombia: 43.1%-66.7%, different sources, depending on region
  • Costa Rica: approximately 55%, increases in rural areas and with poverty
  • Croatia: 38.1% infected
  • Cuba: different studies from Havana areas, 44%-66.3%
  • Czech Republic: 30%-40% infected; in Prague, 19.8% infected
  • Denmark: statistics for Copenhagen, 27.8% infected
  • Egypt: measured in women only, 46.5% in urban areas, 57.6% in rural areas
  • France: 45% infected
  • Germany: Western Pomeranian statistics only, 63.2% infected
  • Greece: depending on different studies and different regions, 20%-36.4% infected
  • Grenada: 57% infected, nationwide estimate
  • India: 11.6%-45%, depending on class and region
  • Iran: 29.4%-63.9%, depending on class and region
  • Iraq: 49.2% infected, statistics for pregnant women tested in Basra
  • Italy: 17.5%-34.4%, a range of averages, from different studies and different regions
  • Ivory Coast: 60% infected among pregnant women from Abidjan
  • Jordan: 47.1% infected in Amman
  • Kuwait: 45.7% infected among pregnant women
  • Malaysia: 49% infected among pregnant women from Kuala Lumpur
  • Mexico: extrapolated estimate 22% infected; another source found 6.1% of pregnant women infected in Durango
  • Morocco: Rabat statistics only, among pregnant women, 50.6% infected
  • Netherlands: 35.2% nationwide
  • New Zealand: statistics for pregnant women from Auckland, 35.4% infected
  • Poland: 35.8%-43.7% infected, based on pregnant women only in three cities, Warsaw, Lodz, Poznan
  • Romania: 57.6% infected in women of child-bearing age, Timisoara only
  • Serbia: 33% infected nationwide
  • Singapore: 17.2% infected among pregnant women
  • Slovakia: 22.1% among pregnant women, Bratislava data only
  • Slovenia: 34% infected nationwide
  • South Korea: 4.3% infected; other sources range 0.8%-3.7% infected in Daejeon and Suwon
  • Spain: 18.8%-43.8% infected, averages from certain regions only
  • Sudan: Khartoum and Omdurman only, pregnant women tested, 34.1% infected
  • Sweden: 18% infected from Stockholm and Skane only
  • Switzerland: 8.2%-35% infected, based on data from Lausanne, Geneva, Basel only
  • Thailand: 5.3%-21.5% infected among pregnant women from different regions
  • Turkey: 30.1%-60.4% average infected among pregnant women, from different classes and regions, impacted by regional culinary traditions (consumption of raw meat)
  • United Kingdom: 31% infected, 20 million people in 2012, with 80% of these asymptomatic; East Kent statistics for pregnant women showed 9.1% infected
  • USA: 15%-22.5% of the population, depending on demographic, 60 million+ infected; another source states 11% nationwide, with 7.76% for US-born and 28.1% for foreign born
  • Venezuela: 38% infected among pregnant women from Lara State
  • Vietnam: from Nha Trang only, 11.2% of pregnant women infected
In humans, the disease can remain latent until adulthood, or until the body experiences weakened immunity due to other causes. The non-latent form of the disease can feel like the 'flu' and spreads to the brain, eyes, and other organs; it creates cysts in the amygdala and nucleus accumbens, and changes the connections inside the brain which deal with fear responses, sexual attraction, decision-making and memory. The parasite also increases dopamine production, altering brain chemistry in the same ways cocaine - and schizophrenia - do. Those who are infected post-natally and directly through handling cats after birth are affected more severely than those who are infected congenitally.

Image Source: Twitter.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: The Famine of Memory


This is an early incarnation of the villain, Sauron, when he was known as Mairon. Image Source: The Land of Shadow.

One of the premises of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is that the characters live in a perilous time when real history has been lost. Thus, mortal danger arises not from the arch-villain, exactly, but from the abandoned vigilance of memory.

A later incarnation of Sauron, when he was known as Annatar. Image Source © Angel Falto/Tolkien Gateway.

Another conception of Annatar, who deceived the elves in the Second Age. Image Source © Alaïs/deviantART/Tolkien Gateway.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Last of Their Kinds: On and Off the Red List


Image Source: Sebastian Kennerknecht/PantheraCats/Twitter.

This year, the blog keeps returning to the Himalayas, and there must be something to that: see my earlier posts on the Himalayas here, here, and a 2015 post, here.

Today's post concerns the BBC report from 14 September 2017 that the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), the great cat of the Himalayas, has been removed from the endangered list, and is now classified as vulnerable. Scientists argue that the reclassification could place these cats at greater risk, but it is still good news that their population has improved.


As the snow leopard departs the endangered list, more than 150 species have been added to it. The ash trees of North America, a population of 9 billion trees, have been classified on the brink of extinction, due to an invasive Asian insect, the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). In the past few years, all the beautiful ash trees around my home in eastern Canada have died or started dying.

The Christmas Island pipistrelle bat was declared extinct this month. Image Source: Lindy Lumsden/Mongabay.

The Christmas Island Pipistrelle vesper bat of Australia (Pipistrellus murrayi) was declared extinct in September 2017. I have previously written on extinctions as less-recognized moments in history and as turning points in time. I have also discussed efforts to use genetic manipulation and cloning to bring back extinct species, as scientists work against the course of time and evolution; this is most noticeable when they plan to revive prehistoric species.



Image Source: BBC.



Image Source: BBC.

Image Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images/NPR.

Snow Leopard: First Intimate Images In The Wild - Planet Earth - BBC Earth (12 March 2017). Video Source: Youtube.


See all my posts on Extinction.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cairn Building Sacred Tree Chimps


This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees (1 March 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

The above video circulated last year, when researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the Chimbo Foundation observed male chimpanzees filling hollow trees up with rocks, and then hurling more rocks at the filled trees in what looked like a strange ritual. This occurred in the Boé region of Guinea-Bissau on the western tip of Africa.

Were the researchers correct in projecting onto the chimpanzees the theory of human evolution, much less a theory of human evolution as dependent on the development of religion? For that seems to be the underlying argument: that biological evolution is impossible without the cognitive moment when the brain seeks the divine. As the researchers put it:
"We found four populations in West Africa where chimpanzees habitually bang and throw rocks against trees, or toss them into tree cavities, resulting in conspicuous stone accumulations at these sites. This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees. The ritualized behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites."
It is a banal but fascinating beginning for the gods: merely a pile of rubble, mounded in a new way which could begin to take on significance. The hypothesis is not asking whether these animals actually find gods in the stone configurations they make, rather whether their brains make the mental jump into thinking they do. In this theory, that's evolution.

One Youtuber summed up the discovery as "chimphenge." Other comments:
  • "Sorry mi english google translator: I do not believe in God, this discovery shows that never need God in our lives, we evolve throwing stones at the trees and forming mounds, then named sacred, those trees symbolically became pillars adorned our temples, after millions of years evolution forget this and we must give a name to both advance and consciousness. Unfortunately there was a lot to us and we prefer to form symbolic it out from within us and shape, we call 'God' and is the perfect excuse to manipulate and keep people away from the truth, everyone is 'God' does not exist a single God, in fact none exists, are just stones of different shapes and sizes in different trees, it depends on the monkey and the group which is the 'real tree' that 'God' is life, we are each living being. We gave shape the world as we know it and everything, God does not exist we create it, we ourselves are God, this evolutionary step in monkeys demonstrated."
  • "and what has been noted on which specific trees have been used? do these specific trees also feature in human's use such as shamanism, or medicinal or spiritual functions?"
  • "Maybe they're trying to recreate fire. . .from a past incident that simply happened by chance."
  • "Stop bring God into it. They are intelligent apes and live with nature. And if humans stopped interfering with there lives they would be ok"
  • "might be the start of next chapter in chimpanzee evolution theyre going to build their first pyramid"
  • "Idiots!!! clear they are playing a game unknown to man. Not everything is supposed to be [for a] reason. ..."
  • "I THINK THEY HIDING HILLARYS EMAILS"
Click to enlarge. Image Source: Nature.

This theory relates to how we worship our own ability to make things. The scientists here may be unconsciously projecting contemporary attitudes toward creativity onto the chimps. Most of the world has received the Technological Revolution with cult-like fervour. Today's Maker Culture is a 21st century extension of the old Arts and Crafts movement (c. 1880-1920), updated with machine building, engineering, arts and crafts, and open-sourced hardware. These trends involve the wonder of building something with one's bare hands, to the point where it enters an intellectual, conceptual, or spiritual realm. A more etheric branch of Maker Culture is software-oriented Hacker Culture.

So, a secular search for a moment of transcendence is there, and central to understanding the creative and intellectual arts. For artists and thinkers as creators, there is something magical about manipulating matter into a thing or moment beyond what existed before, through a creative act. At the core of it lies humankind's conflicted connection with nature.

The current manipulation of the world is based on a presumed human disconnection from the environment. These were the presumptions of the Enlightenment. In Enlightenment secularism, there was no divine entity and we did not derive from divine action. But we also had a right to control, understand, and rationalize the world because we were no longer animals and were disconnected from nature, and thus gained dominion over it.

Nothing could be sadder or further from the truth, and the fundamental error in that core assumption is reflected in the anguish caused by the superficial focus on modern materialism and rationalism, devoid of emotion and spiritual wonder. It is on the basis of that rigid, mask-like quantification of existence that we find ourselves seduced by technology.

Even technophiles who try to go deeper than commercialism and materialism yearn for microchip implants and brain-machine interfaces. They want the interface to fill the holes in their souls. It is interesting that they are obsessed with organic food, and nature-oriented spiritualism, but with a cardboard level of understanding. The spiritual disconnection from nature is complete, and robot-dom is just around the corner, even if that robot thinks it has done its job by climbing mountains, or contorting itself into yoga poses, drinking purified vitamin water, or eating organic vegetables. Mechanically going through the motions around consciousness does not constitute consciousness. The symbiotic bio-tech mesh between ourselves and our tools has already started. Even with the redemptive Maker Movement still trending, the philosophical consideration of what that means lags far behind.

This is why organized religion, for all its flaws and superstitions, constantly reminded human beings of the creative moment when they tried to understand their place in nature, in a fashion that went way beyond tool-building. Early technological monuments like Stonehenge were conceived not for the sake of technology itself, but to measure astronomical changes for even greater purpose.

Wells Cathedral: Gothic cathedrals were designed to look like the faithful were entering an artificial stone forest, reminiscent of earlier Druidic practices in real forest groves. Image Source: Shutterstock.

Architects designed the Gothic cathedrals of Europe to resemble forest groves. Yes, they invented the flying buttress, but they did it not for the sake of the buttresses. They did it to build stone forests, with stained-glass windows which imitated dappled sunlight, penetrating the canopy.

Compare that to our current disconnection from nature, in which technology is created blindly for the sake of mechanized production and mechanical modalities, desperately rolled out on accelerated machine-oriented schedules. The underlying spiritual gap is evident in the current demolition of European churches because they are too expensive to maintain. They are replaced by square cement boxes.

Today, there are enormous efforts toward creativity; but technophiles still indulge powerful fantasies that they control the process. This Millennial blind spot, which replaced God with the ego, may explain why the chimpanzees' stone cairns remain a mystery to us, who are so much more intelligent.

The scholarly article on the subject, published 29 February 2016, is by Hjalmar S. Kühl, Ammie K. Kalan, and others, "Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing," Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22219 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep22219.

Rise of the 'maker movement' (12 March 2012). Video Source: Youtube.

The Mad Geniuses of Maker Faire (10 July 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker trailer - A documentary on the Maker Movement (30 September 2013). Video Source: Youtube.

HOME MADE A Documentary on the Maker Movement in Denmark HD (9 January 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

The Next Maker Movement (22 May 2015). Video Source: Youtube.
 
Maker Faire Hannover 2015 Teil 1 - Impressionen JS TECHhack (6 June 2015). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker Faire Bay Area 2016 (23 May 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware (Full Documentary) | Future Cities | WIRED (5 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

Hubs, Hackerspaces and the Maker Movement: Investing in Tech Innovation in Africa | #APF15 (27 July 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

The Maker Movement and the Next Manufacturing Revolution (21 October 2016). Video Source: Youtube.

MakerFaire UK 2017 (1 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

The Maker Movement: Finding Meaning in Work (7 April 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Bay Area Maker Faire 2017 (24 May 2017). Video Source: Youtube.

Maker Faire 2017 Berlin (12 June 2017). Video Source: Youtube.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Time Lapses: Antibiotic Resistance


"A time-lapsed video reveals how bacteria develop resistance to increasingly higher doses of antibiotics in a matter of days." Video Source: Youtube. (Hat tip: Hugo Reinert.)

This morning, the Guardian reported that the UN named antibiotic resistance, "the biggest threat to modern medicine." On 8 September 2016, Harvard Medical School issued a time lapse video in which bacteria evolve and become antibiotic resistant:
"In a creative stroke inspired by Hollywood wizardry, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have designed a simple way to observe how bacteria move as they become impervious to drugs.

The experiments, described in the Sept. 9 issue of Science, are thought to provide the first large-scale glimpse of the maneuvers of bacteria as they encounter increasingly higher doses of antibiotics and adapt to survive—and thrive—in them."
The research team found that the strongest mutant bacteria hang back and let others die for them:
"'What we saw suggests that evolution is not always led by the most resistant mutants,' Baym said. 'Sometimes it favors the first to get there. The strongest mutants are, in fact, often moving behind more vulnerable strains. Who gets there first may be predicated on proximity rather than mutation strength.'"
Drug-resistant bacteria promise to take us back to the pre-antibiotic period in medicine, which for many people is hard to imagine. The post-antibiotic era has grabbed the attention of doom-sayers, who may have a point: first we had Peak Oil, then the Peak Middle Class, now Peak Antibiotics.


2014 talk from Robert Wallace on evolving pathogens and agroeconomics at the Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota. Video Source: University of Minnesota via Collapse of Industrial Civilization.

Related:
  • Joseph Gottfried, Harvard Law School (17 April 2005): History Repeating? Avoiding a Return to the Pre-Antibiotic Age
  • CDC (January 2011): Ceftriaxone-Resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Japan
  • Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (July 2011): Is Neisseria gonorrhoeae Initiating a Future Era of Untreatable Gonorrhea?: Detailed Characterization of the First Strain with High-Level Resistance to Ceftriaxone
  • WHO (2014): Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance
  • Bloomberg (30 April 2014): Everyday Infections May Kill as Antibiotics Lose Potency
  • Bloomberg (2 May 2014): Remember Life Before Antibiotics? No? Wait, It'll Come to You
  • WHO (25 July 2014): Pre-Antibiotic era looming large - The world is almost out of time
  • Journal of Infectious Diseases and Preventative Medicine (July 2015): Infection in a Pre-Antibiotic Era
  • The Tribune (14 September 2015): Pre-antibiotic era may return, warns WHO
  • ESOF (26 July 2016): Regression to the pre-antibiotic era: time to panic?

"CDC staff show two plates growing bacteria in the presence of discs containing various antibiotics. The isolate on the left plate is susceptible to the antibiotics on the discs and is therefore unable to grow around the discs. The one on the right has a CRE that is resistant to all of the antibiotics tested and is able to grow near the disks." Click to enlarge. Image Source: CDC.

In the pre-antibiotic era, people who could afford it took to sanatoriums with chronic infections which never really healed. Image Source: Herd Effect.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Open Source Code: Cross-Pollination and Consensus



If you want to find people who are truly finding new ways to understand the world - society, the economy, politics, law, governance - in light of technological advances, look to the best thinkers in cryptocurrency circles. On 10 June 2016, Andreas Antonopoulous posted this tweet and video from Milan regarding evolutionary and anthropological similarities to open source code:
"The interest of anthropologists drawing similarities between evolutionary biology and market economies. Cross-pollination/ cross-genetic lines or horizontal transfer of DNA between species vs. the open source environment. Different cryptocurrency developers exchanging code ('DNA blueprints') and adopting it. Bitcoin is rapidly progressing. Concepts of basic income. Identity and reputation works best in small communities. They are difficult to scale without collapsing. We can scale reputation but should we or do we want to? Rigid mechanistic reputation systems don't have the the flexible human capability to forget. Scaling consensus through collaboration. The problem of control by the few."

Video Source: Youtube.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wonders of the Millennial World 8: The Kaleidoscope


Image Source: World Arts Film Festival.

Posts on this blog have asked about the impact of technology on traditional life, a destabilization of norms, and a dislocation from stable geographical and economic bases. The shift from static to kinetic applies in media as in life. Perhaps the dynamic Millennial existence resembles a kaleidoscope, where identity, time, memory, place, beliefs, the virtual and real, constantly tumble and lock into new realities. All elements are moving pieces which come together in a way that resembles living systems. The trick to see this is depth of perspective.

Naturally occurring fractal pattern, cells in a cross-section of a plant stalk. Image Source: pinterest.

Neuronal cells. Image Source: Eye of Science.

"Equivocal kaleidoscope. Ai Weiwei welded 150 bicycle frames into an impressive installation. The work is not only a reference to cars taking over the streets in China, but also to a prominent show trial. Several years ago, a young Chinese man was arrested and mistreated for not registering his bicycle. He was later sentenced to death." Image Source: DW.

Microphotograph of the ovary of a flower by Ray Nelson. Image Source: The Daily Polymer Arts Blog.

Image Source: Hotel-R.

Electric pulses from a human brain cell. Image Source: 123RF.

Trippy 014: Psychedelic particles randomly pulse and flow (Loop). Image Source: Shutterstock.

Human Cerebral Cortex, Alfonso Rodríguez-Baeza and Marisa Ortega-Sánchez, scanning electron microscope (2009). Image Source: pinterest. Compare with the brain cell gif in my post, Making Memories.

Marker art installation by artist Heike Weber (2013). Image Source: Bored Panda. Compare with the installations of artist Clemens Behr.

See my earlier post on Microphotography.
See all my posts on Wonders of the Millennial World.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Tornado


A tornado in Colorado, USA (7 May 2016). Image Source: Tori O'Shea.

This blog is skeptical of conspiracy theories because they are not consistent with the way reality is created. Conspiracy theories about current events - for example, regarding the disastrous situation in Syria - are examples of modern urban folklore, which impose exactly the same superstitious, deterministic logic onto the world that an established religion would. Many of today's orthodoxies are nominally secular, but they are no less based in blind faith. Actors on the international scene do try to impose strategic control on the world's hot spots; the media come to these hot spots with spin, preconceived ideas and even false flag agendas. However, the notion that anyone - governments, politicians, banks, shadowy cabals, unseen actors, evil establishments - controls the reality that ensues from fluid conditions is incorrect.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Time and Politics 19: Predicting the Future, A Tricky Business


Professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita spoke at LSE (Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building) on 21 October 2009; the chair of the discussion was Professor Richard Steinberg. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has been shaking the world of political science to its foundations with his predictions of world events. His systems based on game theory have an astonishing 90%+ ratio of accuracy and are frequently used to shape US foreign-policy decisions on issues such as the terrorist threat to America to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Considered by many to be the most important foreign-policy analyst there is, it is no surprise that he is regularly consulted by the CIA and US Department of Defence. In this lecture Professor Bueno de Mesquita will look at what is needed to reliably anticipate and even alter events in any situation involving negotiation in the shadow of the threat of coercion. He will demonstrate how to bring science to decision making in any situation from personal to professional."

In an earlier post, I discussed the work of NYU professor Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, who uses game theory to predict the future in international relations and advises businesses and the American government on major strategic policy concerns. In the 2009 talk above from the London School of Economics (at 53:00), he explained how he was hired to develop a fraud prediction model applied to banking regulations. At 55:32, he remarked:
"One of the best early warning indicators of fraud is that, relative to growth in market cap, compensation for senior management is under expectation for the size of the organization of the firm, not over. ... They're husbanding whatever resources they can to try to save the company."
Bueno de Mesquita has become widely known for his predictions on war, the economy and politics, although he remains dogged by popular fringe elements who compare his work to mystical prognosticators and fortune-tellers of the past, such as the Renaissance apothecary Nostradamus (1503-1566). In this lecture, he maintained a serious academic attitude while promoting his book, The Predictioneer's Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See and Shape the Future. He has since published a book on how leaders exercise power (2012); and he issued a new edition of his book on war and peace in international politics (2013). He need not worry about becoming too popular; one Youtuber was unimpressed:
"The fiction that human beings are 'rational actors' has been totally discredited. Establishment academics with tenure have a hard time accepting real [world] facts that most people on the street intuitively understand without ... study. Anyone who claims 90% prediction accuracy in working with any complex system - who has not made themselves a billionaire with such gifts - is a con man."
Two questions put to Bueno de Mesquita at the end of his talk suggested that the Youtuber's remark had some weight. Random events, as well as anti-rational or irrational impulses, fall outside the professor's model. This is the 10 per cent range of human behaviour extending into the future, where game theory meets chaos theory meets randomness.

At 56:40, a member of the audience asked about Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007; 2nd ed. 2010). To paraphrase, the person asked if random, chance occurrences could drastically affect statistical models (Bueno de Mesquita corrected him: game theory models) due to unique expressions of human nature.

At 1:10:00, another member of the audience asked about Frederic Vester's (1925-2003) sensitivity model, which applied game theory to biology and behavioural ecology, and produces results similar Bueno de Mesquita's application of game theory to economics and politics. This similarity implies that organic systems mirror human systems in their predictability and unpredictability.

Both questions relate to the nature and impact of the Internet, especially as it is redesigned to endure and become a lasting edifice. Is the Web a techno-organic entity which reflects the rational and irrational impulses of its users, and to what degree? Can we describe peer-to-peer technological environments as 'ecosystems,' and if they are organic, to what degree are they chaotic and unpredictable? Or are the computer systems and technical designs of the Web and other peer-to-peer technologies, including cryptocurrencies, shaping the way we behave and think inside virtual realities? Are we driving the car or is the car driving us? This is a concern as Big Data analysts flock to predict, manipulate and control consumers' behaviours and voters' choices. In future posts, I will consider how these theories of predictability relate to decentralized behavioural psychology and the psychodynamics of peer-to-peer technologies.

See all my posts on Time and Politics.
See all my posts on Cryptocurrencies.
See all my posts on the Permanent Web.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Awaken the Amnesiacs 5: Reflection Reversal


One of Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings on display at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France. Image Source: View on Canadian Art.

Imagine a mirror, presented to you as a piece of art. Hanging in a gallery, the art would superficially deliver a message about itself. But this art piece would not be about itself. The artist had devised this piece to turn its viewers into objects, while the artwork became the viewer, or subject. The painting-as-mirror would be actively, perhaps even aggressively, looking back at its viewer. In this case, the viewer should wonder not about the artwork, but upon what or whom is that artwork gazing? Everything in the reflection would direct attention and questions back upon the viewer. In the style of the 1970s' minimalist movement, this was the conceit of Gerhard Richter's mirror paintings (thanks to -C.). Richter's sheets of colour-coated glass reflect the viewer. Richter's paintings "have secrets."

Now consider that the mirror's nature as an inert object with innate power might only become apparent once it is covered, or the light on it changes or disappears. Without light, Richter's mirror paintings become matte, dull, flat surfaces. The mirror, when covered, betrays its dangerous nature because we are no longer mesmerized by what we see in it. When it loses its power to reflect back at the viewer, to transform the viewer into an object, the viewer is reminded, brought to conscious awareness, that he or she has been watched. Add light again and the mirror gains agency and becomes a subject gazing actively at the world, with the world looking back at it. But at that very moment, the viewer in the world gazing into the mirror is mesmerized, and forgets the true nature of his experience, mistakenly thinking that he is the agent of action.

This power play is true of all mirrors, which is why some cultures require mirrors, or even reflective television screens, to be covered during sleep or after someone in a family dies. When Richter made a mirror into a piece of art, he manipulated superstition and embedded that message into an art piece, an object with cultural value. By putting mirrors into art galleries, he made us start to understand how mirrors reverse perspective and power. We think we are looking at mirrors, that we are agents with power when we gaze into them. But they are the real agents of power, and they are looking at us.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Names of the Prehuman World


Hypothetical image of earth during its earliest Precambrian Hadean eon. Image Source: pinterest.

Palaeontologists describe the prehuman world, a desolate and unrecognizable planet. Our beloved and enslaved earth had a secret, prehuman life. Not only did we not exist, but neither did our countries, continents or oceans. The territorial bases of humans and their nations and identities, geopolitics and religions, which we take so seriously now, were either primordial or absent. Modern humans are so self-involved that they forget that the planet once belonged to itself, a place we would find frightening, an antecessor that pre-existed everything our exploits might control.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Orthodox Christmas: Life in the Adjacent Possible


Image Source: The Culture Concept.

Any apiarist, keeping watch over a hive of bees sleeping through the winter, would tell you that civilization can only function under certain circumstances. Apiculture is one of the world's oldest professions. It is a founding pillar of agriculture. In colony collapse disorder - now threatening beehives across Europe and North America - workers stock up a hive but then abandon their helpless queen. The plague is blamed on pesticides, pathogens, and mobile phone towers, with bee-keepers reporting that roughly one third to one half of their hives have been dying over winters every year for the past decade, despite various high tech solutions. It is hard to say how new this disaster is. There were reports of 'mystery diseases' and 'disappearing diseases' in hives in 1918-1919 and in the mid 1960s. Whatever the causes, the insects' tiny world of flowers and pollination remain critical to human survival. In 2010, the United Nations estimated that the worth of global crops pollinated by bees was 153 billion euros, or "9.5 per cent of the total value of human food production worldwide."

Image Source: My Greek Spirit.

The remarkable way bees organize themselves remains symbolically powerful. Their honey production makes their system seem much friendlier than the terrifying laws that govern your average ant hill. Any agricultural society would see bees as the civilized agents of the natural world, a properly arranged mini-society with a sweet output.

Today, 7 January 2015, is Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Due to the traditional symbolism of the apiary, beeswax candles are held in special esteem in Orthodox rituals. At Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos explains that for Orthodox Christians, beeswax candles symbolize purity, adaptability of the heart, forgiveness of sins, and divine grace garnered from the wax's floral sources. Candlelight and the sweet smell of burning beeswax recall summer days to illuminate and banish darkness caused by fear, corruption and misery.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Quote of the Day: Earthworm Tribute


Man is but a Worm from Punch's Almanack (1882). Image Source: Tulane University via Wired.

From this week's Free Will Astrology, for anyone who still inches forward:
Charles Darwin is best known for his book The Origin of Species, which contains his seminal ideas about evolutionary biology. But while he was still alive, his best-seller was The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms. The painstaking result of over forty years' worth of research, it is a tribute to the noble earthworm and that creature's crucial role in the health of soil and plants. It provides a different angle on one of Darwin's central concerns: how small, incremental transformations that take place over extended periods of time can have monumental effects.
You can read The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits (1881) for free online here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Evolutionary Babylon


"A rainbow-colored beast from the margins of a fifteenth-century text." Image Source: Public Domain Review via Paris Review.

The Justin Bieber mugshot is already an Internet meme (do not click here or here and don't don't don't click here (told you not to)). Fortunately, there are other things to think about, like the origins of life. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old physicist at MIT, thinks that he has identified the physics that underlies the difference between inanimate and animate matter. The thermodynamic theory, which complements Darwin's theory of evolution, is outlined in Quanta Magazine, and summarized below the jump.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with the Tower of Babel in the background ("probably 19th century after the first excavations in the Assyrian capitals"). Image Source: Wiki.

Already, critics are queueing to attack England's ideas. But is this simply because his concept has appeared in many guises, to researchers working in various fields, each of which has a field-specific language and set of research precedents? Is the theory of the origin of life a modern Tower of Babel?